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Warrior or Mercenary?

Warrior or Mercenary?

Aug 5, 2010

Images of war­riors tend to prick the imag­i­na­tion and hearts of both men and women.  Ask your­self what images the word con­jures up for you.  For me it’s some­thing like the statue by the Viet­nam War Memo­r­ial.

Recent movies like Brave­heart, The 300, Glad­i­a­tor, Black Hawk Down, and oth­ers pro­vide us with images of strong, manly men who are dri­ven to fight for a just cause, to right a wrong or for a higher pur­pose.  These men live by a code of ethics and work together with or lead other men towards a com­mon goal.  These were men of honor, who banded together to form a unit that could press for­ward while still pro­vid­ing some­one to watch their back as they fought the good fight.


In the Ran­dom House Dic­tio­nary the term war­rior has two mean­ings. The first lit­eral use refers to “a man engaged or expe­ri­enced in war­fare.” The sec­ond fig­u­ra­tive use refers to “a per­son who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggres­sive­ness, as in pol­i­tics or ath­let­ics.“

In soci­eties where there is a war­rior class, or a mil­i­tary in today’s ter­mi­nol­ogy, there is also a war­rior code of con­duct.  This code of con­duct is put in place to help ensure that the war­rior class or mil­i­tary does not become cor­rupt or dan­ger­ous to the soci­ety it serves.  Such a code of con­duct val­ues honor and usu­ally extols the virtues of loy­alty, courage, faith and mercy.

When we look at mer­ce­nar­ies, on the other hand, we find some­thing very dif­fer­ent.  Ran­dom House Dic­tio­nary defines mer­ce­nary as:

  1. adj.
    1. work­ing or act­ing merely for money or other reward; venal.
    2. hired to serve in a for­eign army, guer­rilla orga­ni­za­tion, etc.—n.
    1. a pro­fes­sional sol­dier hired to serve in a for­eign army.
    2. any hireling.

The ency­clo­pe­dia Bri­tan­nica says this about mer­ce­nary:

Hired pro­fes­sional sol­dier who fights for any state or nation with­out regard to polit­i­cal prin­ci­ples. From the ear­li­est days of orga­nized war­fare, gov­ern­ments sup­ple­mented their mil­i­tary forces with mer­ce­nar­ies. After the Hun­dred Years’ War (1337 – 1453), Swiss sol­diers were hired out all over Europe by their own can­tonal gov­ern­ments and won a high rep­u­ta­tion. Rulers of the Ger­man state of Hesse also hired out their sol­diers, and Hes­s­ian troops fought for the British in the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion. Since the late 18th cen­tury, most mer­ce­nar­ies have been indi­vid­ual sol­diers of for­tune.

The mod­ern day word mer­ce­nary comes from the Latin mer­cēnārius, which was derived from mer­cēs mean­ing wages.

OK, that’s all nice infor­ma­tion and all but what does it have to do with me, and why should I both to keep read­ing this arti­cle?  There are cer­tainly sev­eral of you read­ing this right now who either have been or are cur­rently in the ser­vice of your coun­try through a branch of the armed ser­vices.  To all of you I send out a heart-felt thank you for your courage, patri­o­tism and sense of duty.  This arti­cle does not address the actual war­rior or mer­ce­nary tested in actual bat­tle how­ever.  This arti­cle is focused on that phase of every man’s devel­op­ment into man­hood.

So, ask your­self….  Am I a war­rior or am I a mer­ce­nary?  Really pon­der this thought.  Go back to the def­i­n­i­tions at the top of this arti­cle if you have to and really be hon­est with your­self.  If you are hon­est with your­self I think you might find, as I did, you are more of a mer­ce­nary than a war­rior.

Now, is that a bad thing?  Is it bad to have a mer­ce­nary per­son­al­ity rather than a war­rior per­son­al­ity?  That’s some­thing you’re going to have to deter­mine for your­self, but let’s talk a bit more about the dif­fer­ences.  There are sev­eral peo­ple who have defined ‘war­rior’ as a per­son­al­ity type, and we will touch upon some of that here.  But in my research I haven’t found any­one who addresses what I’d term a ‘mer­ce­nary’ per­son­al­ity.  Some could argue that it could be or should be a sub­set of ‘war­rior’ but I believe that they are dis­tinct.  This could be a fork in the road at a devel­op­men­tal stage in grow­ing into man­hood.  I know that I per­son­ally see a dif­fer­ence not only between the two, but also in the impli­ca­tions that one would have in the future develop of me as a man over the other.

The War­rior Personality

I start with this one because there are sev­eral books, stud­ies and tests that address this per­son­al­ity type, arche­type, etc.  We don’t have time or space enough to go through all of the things writ­ten, but here are a few bul­let points:colonial soldiers

  • War­riors are action-oriented and love to get things done
  • War­riors like chal­leng­ing the world, seem­ing as if they always want to fight
  • War­riors are strong defend­ers of others
  • War­riors are very hard-working and loyal
  • War­riors like to win and can be intensely loyal to their leader
  • War­riors can be very direct and like to get right to the point
  • The War­rior in men is a force of defense and pro­tec­tion of friends and fam­ily, like a police officer.

John Eldredge defines War­rior as a stage of devel­op­ment in a man’s jour­ney into man­hood.  In his own words John Eldredge says that this is a time when a young man looks for a king to fol­low and a bat­tle to fight, and that it is a time when young men learn inner dis­ci­pline that enables them to fight for the sake of oth­ers.

So we have a war­rior defined as some­one who seeks out and fol­lows the lead­er­ship of another more expe­ri­enced man, some­one who is loyal, action ori­ented, hard-working, and a fight­ing force in the defense and pro­tec­tion of oth­ers.  This sounds very much like the ear­lier def­i­n­i­tions, to include the code of conduct/ethics.

The Mer­ce­nary Personality

The Mer­ce­nary has some of the same traits as the Warrior.

  • Mer­ce­nar­ies are action-oriented and love to get things done
  • Mer­ce­nar­ies like chal­leng­ing the world, seem­ing as if they always want to fight
  • Mer­ce­nar­ies are very hard-working
  • Mer­ce­nar­ies like to win and can be intensely competitive
  • Mer­ce­nar­ies can be very direct and like to get right to the point

There are sev­eral good qual­i­ties to the Mer­ce­nary.  How­ever, if you look back at the def­i­n­i­tion we used ear­lier you’ve got to con­sider that the Mer­ce­nary is moti­vated to action by money.  In the sense of today’s world we can say the Mer­ce­nary is moti­vated by money, sta­tus and power.  The Mer­ce­nary doesn’t fol­low a leader or fight along side other men for a com­mon good, they are lone wolves who take great pride in being able to say “I did that… Look what I did….” etc.

Some­thing to Ponder

Maybe it’s just a roman­tic sense of the cav­alry com­ing to the res­cue, but I believe we are meant to be War­riors rather than Mer­ce­nar­ies, at least for a time in our lives at we move into man­hood.  It can’t be the love of money, sta­tus, power, cars, a big house, a boat, etc that moti­vates us to action.  We can’t go into bat­tle alone, with­out sup­port and expe­ri­ence guid­ance, and expect to win.

Most guys go to work every day for the pay­check.  We work hard for the next pro­mo­tion, and if we don’t get what we feel we’re enti­tled to we act just like a Mer­ce­nary and look for a new army that will pay bet­ter, pro­vide a bet­ter job title, etc.  And when we get the big­ger pay­check we find all sorts of ways to spend it on things that ben­e­fit us.

I’m not sug­gest­ing that we don’t think about our fam­i­lies in all of this, of course we do.  But hon­estly, do you spend more time at work, think­ing about work, think­ing about how to get ahead, or how to get the next job than you do play­ing with your kids or being that fun-loving, good lis­ten­ing, what­ever guy that your wife mar­ried how­ever many years ago.

Just for fun go talk to some­one who you know and respect, some­one who is a lot older and wiser than you are and ask them what they remem­ber most about their life and what they regret most.  Then go back and look at your own life and answer some ques­tions like:

  • What would hap­pen if some­one stole my car tomorrow?
  • What would hap­pen if I lost my job?
  • What would hap­pen if my house burned down when we were away?
  • What would hap­pen if one of my kids got in a car acci­dent and suf­fered per­ma­nent brain damage?
  • What would hap­pen if some­one hit my wife’s car while she was dri­ving the kids to the store and no one sur­vived the accident?

What is your higher pur­pose?  What cause are you fight­ing for?  Are you fight­ing the bat­tle alone?  Who is there to guide you when you get lost or stuck?  Who’s there to pick you up when you get wounded in the bat­tle, who is there to carry you to safety?

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